Rolf de Heer & James Currie Q&A:
Port Adelaide's Cinematic Map

by Mike Retter

Binaural screening of Bad Boy Bubby in Port Adelaide, Adelaide Film Festival 2015

NOTE BY Mike Retter:

"For interior scenes, we played the sound of Port Adelaide streets through Marshall guitar amps into the Hendon Studios sound stage."
James Currie, Sound Recordist

For the film Bad Boy Bubby (Rolf de Heer, 1993), James Currie kept lead actor Nicholas Hope immersed in sound for his "binaural audio recording" (small microphones hidden under his characters wig, placed to mimic the experience of human ears). An experiment in stereo and body resonance, a truck driving, for example, creates a bass hum through the ground, into the protagonist's shoes, up the body and then to his skull and ears.

"The ideas about binaural sound were a discussion that took place over several years." Rolf de Heer

Rolf de Heer came to Port Adelaide, a location where he would have an office and direct Bad Boy Bubby: "When it came to shooting in Port Adelaide, we had to find locations ... Torrens Power Station changed the scene from something scientific, to something bigger, grander, by using what we had, a large warehouse space we could move through." This sequence at Torrens Power Station, past Port Adelaide, was a huge industrial crane shot.

Some Bad Boy Bubby locations have been written about in PhD theses regarding their symbolic meaning. But, for a local, the celluloid high-streets and warehouses Bubby stumbles upon are the same vectors people travel to buy bread, coffee and brikabrak every day.

Nicholas Hope as Bad Boy Bubby, driving on the streets of Port Adelaide – Back Diamond Corner

Port Adelaide would be almost the entire film's backdrop, with some interiors shot at Hendon Studios. The photocopy shop in the film is now the famous Porthole Records. Port Adelaide would also be the cinematic map of Look Both Ways (Sarah Watt, 2005), which Margaret Pomeranz would call "One of the best Australian films of the new century". Along with Japanese sci-fi Ultraman, Wolf Creek sequels and Chinese adventure TV shows. Port Adelaide's mixture of heritage and former industrial precincts are a filmmaker's dream.


Rolf, James, Nicholas Hope and a world record 23 directors of photography made the film in a different and often extreme era of the Port. Rolf would quip "Port Adelaide 23 years ago was a fair bit rougher than it is now. It's gentrifying. And we are sorry for that".


Rolf de Heer and James Currie Speak in the Q&A at the Adelaide Film Festival's 2015 world first binaural presentation. Watch entire Q&A on YouTube or listen on Soundcloud.

Mike Retter is a film director, of the indie feature Youth On The March, creator of the zine "Cinema Now", and the Podcast "Meat Bone Express", and part of the Port Film Co-op.

Published August 27, 2018. © Mike Retter 2018